A deadly new weapon

The use of gas by the Germans had already taken place on 22 April 1915 against French and Canadian soldiers near Sint Juliaan directly to the north of Hooge. Now as a retaliation to the explosion of the Hooge Mine the Germans were to strike back with something potentially more frightening.

Gas could be neutralised to an extent with gas masks but what could you do against jets of burning fuel?

If you think of the front line coming straight down north south but with a step around Hooge you will understand how it could be attacked from the north and east at the same time. Coming down and then right, going around the back of the château and mine crater it continued southwards crossing the main road a few hundred metres past the present day cemetery.

The mine at Hooge had been detonated on 19 July 1915 and the position taken and held.

30 July 1915: Flamethrowers

The crater was now to be the backdrop for the deployment of a new weapon by the Germans. The French had already been acquainted with the German Flammenwerfen which consisted of a cylinder of fuel strapped to a soldier. A walking petrol pump if you would. A soldier ignited the fuel which could then be fired in jets up to 25 metres.

Not the safest of weapons to be carrying I am sure, but one which wreaked havoc amongst the enemy.

The Germans had been pummelling the British front line at Hooge for some time and the trenches were reduced to tatters. Then at 03:15 hours on 30 July the 8th Rifle Brigade (Which is a battalion by the way - don't be deceived by its title of Brigade) who were holding the northern edge of the step and the crater were subjected to an onslaught by the Germans deploying Flamethrowers.

The Germans were now sweeping the Riflemen out of their trenches and pushing eastwards in the act of taking men from the 7 KRRC (King's Royal Rifle Corps - again a battalion) from both rear and the front as a second attack was launched westwards by the Germans. The British were in danger of being trapped like the filling of a sandwich.

Counter attacks by the British amounted to very little and 7 KRRC were forced to retire into the northern edge of Sanctuary Wood. The line was held but for the moment Hooge Château and Crater were in the hands of the Germans.


9 August 1915: The Empire (British) Strikes Back

The British Staff realised that it would not be possible to regain their lost ground in a haphazard manner and so they went about carefully planning and coordinating an attack which would have a limited objective: retaking Hooge. Like so many of these places around Ieper it may not look much but the German possession of the village gave them a tremendous advantage for observing the British Lines.

Now that the war was just over a year old the British soldier was finally issued with - a tin hat. Up until then they had been wearing forage caps!

At 02:45 hours a short but heavy barrage was laid down on the German positions. At 03:15 hours it stopped and the British troops who had been crawling out into no-mans land rushed the German defences.

It was for 2 Durham Light Infantry to come out of Sanctuary wood to the south of the main road (and can be visited quite easily from Hooge) and to attack the crater.

They made very good progress taking the crater very swiftly aided by the complete surprise that they had and a secondary bombardment which was now falling behind the German front line to prevent them being able to bring up reserves for a counter attack.

The attack had cost the Durham's a third of their strength in casualties, but the crater was taken and a weak point in the Allied line re-secured.

Hooge Museum Hooge Museum
Hooge Crater Cemetery Hooge Crater Cemetery
The Hooge Mine: July 1915 The Hooge Mine: July 1915